Sometimes it takes a long journey and a little heartache for things to work out and fall into place. Mixed with luck and a lot of determination, Sonia Dillavou from South Haven, Michigan, discovered just how great life can be with her Washington-foaled Thoroughbred, who she calls Eclipse, by her side.
Dillavou has ridden horses her entire life, but has continually gotten no support from her family.
“I have been told my entire life that horses are a waste of time and money. I have never had backing from my family,” Dillavou said.
So in 2006 she sold all her horses and told everyone she was done. Well, that only lasted about six months, and in November Dillavou started taking hunter-jumper lessons at a local barn.
When her trainer at the barn came to her one day and told her he had found a horse for her, Dillavou was sure she wouldn’t be able to afford a horse again. When her trainer said the price was $350, she thought she had heard him wrong.
At first believing that her new horse would arrive as a bay gelding, Dillavou was surprised to see that he was, in fact, actually a chestnut, with no name, papers or any information to go along with him. All she could find out was that he was a “horse and no one knew where he came from.”
Dillavou still remembers the first day she ran out behind the barn to see him.
“He watched me walk all the way up to the fence, and I can still remember the look on his face,” Dillavou said.
Although his hooves were in rough condition and he had big knots in his mane and tail, Dillavou saw something in the chestnut gelding and decided to give him a try. Although at first he was a handful on the ground, Dillavou discoved he loved to jump and was willing to do anything she asked of him.
Dillavou tried him out for 30 days, and almost didn’t buy him because she had friends who tried to talk her out of it; telling her that many ex-racehorses have “ghosts” that come back to haunt them. Dillavou ignored their opinions and purchased the gelding anyway.
Since the name “horse” simply wouldn’t do, Dillavou decided to call him Eclipse, since an eclipse is something special that rarely happens. The only hope that she had for finding out more information about her beloved gelding was his tattoo, and last winter finally got his real name from The Jockey Club. After anxiously awaiting the letter in the mail and days of taunting from her husband, she ripped open the letter to discover his name is “Buckshot.”
Dillavou had always asked Eclipse “Who are you? Where did you come from? How did you get to Michigan?” But the response was always met with the same nicker and grateful eyes.
The Jockey Club referred Dillavou to the WTBOA for more information after telling her he was foaled in Washington. After a bit of research by Joe Pirone, it was found that Buckshot ran for two years, started 11 times and won two races. His career earnings were $8,382. He won his first race in 1998 in Detroit for a claiming price of $12,500 and won a second time that year for $10,000. In 1998 he ran in Detroit and Arizona, before being picked up by Birdie Peltier and trained by Walt Peltier, who may have run him at smaller tracks. Peltier used to run at Playfair and Yakima Meadows, but has not been heard of on the race circuit in recent years. The most recent race information on Buckshot comes from 2000, and after that the trail seems to run cold.
Buckshot is by Center Cut and out of Earlisweet, who had babies come through the Washington yearling sales in 1989 and 1990, although Buckshot wasn’t born until 1995. After the 1990 sale, five out of her next six foals were sired by Center Cut, but none were sold at the sales, and three were unraced. Buckshot was bred by Chuck and Nancy Seeman.
Dillavou laughs when she thinks about Buckshot racing, considering she only knows him as a lazy and relaxed horse who loves his food!
Since owning Buckshot, Dillavou hasn’t been able to take him to any shows because of finances.
“I put all of my money into him instead and make sure he has everything he needs,” she said. “I feel that the happiness and health of my horse is more important than showing and winning.”
This past July Dillavou became the new barn manager at Cheerio Acres in South Haven, Michigan, and she is happy to report that all of her dreams are finally coming true, and she attributes a lot of that to Buckshot.
“This horse means so much to me and I love him so much. I have no idea what I would do without him in my life,” Dillavou said. “The horses that come off the track may need more time and love, but eventually make great horses for jumping, dressage and trails. The guys on the track do such a great job with ground-work, and I think the big losers on the track become the best buddies for the rest of us.”
Dillavou would love to find out what Buckshot looked like as a foal, see a win photo or just say thank you to whoever sent him on this journey. But for now, she is happy to just go outside and see her beautiful chestnut gelding staring back at her.
Dillavou has also recently adopted another OTTB from Arizona named Royal that she has big hopes for as well. “I am grateful Buckshot ended up with me. If someone else had noticed his potential, I never would of had him. He is a great and outstanding horse,” Dillavou added.
Although a few mysteries still remain, the one thing that is for sure is that Buckshot has found his forever home.
Buckshot (WA), 1995, g., Center Cut—Earlisweet, by Theologist.
Raced two years, 11-2-0-0, $8,382.
On June 11, 2011, Buckshot “Eclipse” passed away. Foaled on May 9, 1995, he was a Washington Thoroughbred by Center Cut out of Earlisweet. He ran for two years with 11 starts and won two races. The Washington Thoroughbred did a story on him in October 2008 in the Second Chances column. Thank you for that story. I will forever miss my friend. It’s been so hard having you leave me.